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but think it a very different thing to convert an independent yeoman on the banks of the Missisippi from what it would be to convert a Hottentot on the sands of Africa, or a half-mindless Hindoo on the banks of the Ganges or the Berhampooter. The one is a different man from the other. Converted, he will be a different Christian. In character and circumstances there is almost a measureless distance between them. Save the Hottentot, save the Hindoo; but neglect not to call into the army of God the character and the coming means of the West Give what force to the idea your own judgment assigns to it. We present it, as we do all the other ideas of this sermon, only to invite you to think for yourselves.
But it, in order to convert the West, you must do less at the present time for distant people, let not prejudice, or folly, or romance, or fanaticism make you hesitate. If, in order to evangelize your own growing and mighty West, you must needs do it, call back your Missionaries from Asia or Africa. Sooner let the decrepitude and sluggishness of those half-mindless people remain unevangelized, than suffer the giant energies of the race in your own land to remain so. Asia cannot help you or hurt you. Iowa can -Oregon can: so can Texas, Minesota, New Mexico, and California. The race in these new regions will be giants. Convert them, and they will stand in the front rank of your army, to subdue the world to Christ. Leave them without conversion, and their unequalled energy and skill, and indomitable fortitude and perseverance, wielded yet by some unholy ambition or pride or avarice or sensuality, will do more to roll on the car of evil than a thousand-fold as many people could do who resemble the dwindled and dwarfish races of India. Those degraded and spellbound races cannot hurt you. They have not the talents to do it. They lack energy, intellect, genius. They are stereotyped to indolence and effeminacy. Convert them, they will be stereotyped still : they will wear much of the old image as men, if even they have the image of God as Christians. They will be only a kind of half-wav Christians; and generation after generation of them will go down to the grave before they will be elevated to the level of your own Anglo-Saxon blood—if
, indeed, they ever shall reach it. The West is the most important region you can find.
5. As you attempt to push the triumphs of the gospel among the heathen, commonly it costs very much of study and time and labor to break down the systems of falsehood. You must break down before you can build up. The people are not vacant of religion, and waiting for it. They have one. It is endeared to them, and fastened upon them by a thousand familiar forms and usages, interwoven with all their feelings, all their government, all their ordinary habits of life, and all their hopes, and extending through the whole frame-work of both society and character. False religions, hallowed by their antiquity-revered as the gift of departed ancestors—supported by government and customfalling in with the influence of native and nurtured depravity : these false religions must be shown to be false before the Christian Missionary can have access to the heathen mind. Through this thick rubbish he must work his way. It is laborious and difficult work. It costs much time and labor. You cannot expect him to accomplish so much, as if half of his life and more than half of his energies had not to be expended in breaking down a system, which blocks up the avenue to the heathen's heart.
There is not a destitute place on the globe where the people are so ripe to receive the gospel and ready to profit by it as in the Home Mission field of our country. It is not a region of idolatry. The people are not prejudiced against Christianity. They do not regard as an enemy or with suspicion the minister of God you send to them. They hail his approach. They cling to him, ready to share with him the last crust. So much is this the case that a Missionary cannot tear himself from them. And it is very certain, that there is no class of gospel Ministers in the world who work so hard, and live so poor, and suffer so much, as your Home Missionaries. The people have little to give to support them, but they will not let them go; and those men who love Christ cannot bear to leave his children when they plead with tears—“ stay, stay with us, and teach us the way to heaven.”
Millions in your own country are this inoment as ready to receive the gospel as the most of the heathen can be brought to be, after years of labor and thousands of expense. The way is ready. There is no heathen system to break down. You are invited to go in and possess the land. However much we may admire that Christian heroism which will be staggered at no difficultieswhich will undertake a work for God's love, and the love of souls, the more readily because it is arduous, we cannot tell on what principle those who are the most ready to receive the gospel and profit by it should be the most neglected. Paul did not act on this principle. To the objecting and prejudiced Jews he said, “ lo we turn to the Gentiles.”
If we neglect for a little while the now open field of our country, obstacles to gospel salvation will be built up there, more dreadful perhaps than the obstacles of heathenism. Papacy, as a religion for men, is a worn out system in Europe. It has little hope of living there much longer, except by the ungodly device of being linked with national governments. It will try hard to entrench itself in the West. It is trying. Let it once set up its dominion of blindness and bigotry there, and that field will be open to receive the gospel of truth no longer! The obstacles of Papacy will be as bad as the obstacles of heathenism! Is it right to leave a region so ready for spiritual religion exposed to such a withering curse?
And if we want any proof of the open and ripe condition of our Home Mission field, we may find it in the history of past successes,-a history now filling out, every day, in letters of liv. ing light.
In the churches aided by the General Assembly's Board of
1,282 « 1846, 1,800 1847, 1,900 1848,
There were received, therefore,
23,152 in twelve years. On an average 1,929 every year for twelve years.
There were received, on the profession of their faith, into the churches aided by the American Home Missionary Society, In the year ending May, 1831, 2,532 persons.
6,126 1833, 4,284 1834, 2,736 1835, 3,330 1836, 3,750 1837,
3,752 1838, 3,376 1839, 2,500 1840, 2,840 1841, 2,860 1842, 3,446 1843, 5,853 1844, 4,812 1845,
2,272 1847, 1,980 1848, 2,530
There were received, therefore,
in eighteen years. On an average 3,409 persons every year, for eighteen years.
We have presented these numbers in order to show you not only the extent but the uniformity of the Divine blessing.
Your own mission field is ripe for the gospel. Your missionaries are not called upon so much to clear away the rubbish, as to build up the temple of God. If it is right for you to work first, where you can do most good, you ought to send forth more laborers into this field, already whitened for the harvest of the kingdom.
6. A wise man will look ahead. When we are consulting for the church we ought to consult for its security and continuance. If one place is more safe than another, that fact ought to have some influence upon our counsels. It would be folly to plant churches in a region where there was no probability that they would be secure from violence and destruction, and at the same time neglect regions presenting every prospect for their continuance. We wish to plant churches where they shall last. We cannot well afford to fling away labor and the lives of men.
Now, on this ground let your mind form a comparison betwixt the field abroad and the field at home.
There is scarcely a foreign country wherein your missionaries and your mission churches have any security for being undisturbed. The national government may crush them. Unhappily the governments of this world have had little regard for the church, except when they could wield its influences. They have been very fond, indeed, of employing the church as an instrument for furthering their own purposes and policy ever since before the time of Henry the Eighth. Princes have been tenacious of the title (“Fidei Defensor”), “ Defender of the Faith,” stamped still upon some of their coin, as if they had as much and as unquestionable sovereignty over the church, as they had over the currency. And they have been but too successful in stamping their image upon both. They have wanted both for the same purposes. They have employed them for the same. We can very well endure Cæsar's image and superscription upon the gold and silver, but we prestr riut tu ste i upoir itie church. Výnile we would render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, we desire the privilege to render unto God the things that are God's. But princes have claimed and still claim to be the “ head of the church,” in their respective nations. And what they have done, and what security they have left us for the peace and safety of the churches planted in their empires, history tells us but too plainly.
As you aim to comprehend and weigh the force of this idea you will recollect things like the following. You will remember that the Emperor Alexander crushed the Russian Bible Society when it suited his deep and dark policy to do so. He was afraid of the Word of God. You will remember that your first foreign missionaries were forbidden, for a time, to land in India. You will remember that the Nestorian government has recently expelled your missionaries, and killed some of their own people who favored the kind of religion you aimed to plant among their moun. tains. You will remember the recent butcheries on account of religion which have stained with Christian blood the island of Madagascar. You will remember how centuries of persecution in old Spain, (for example,) extinguished almost the last gleam of Christian light in that beautiful, but mis-governed land. You will remember how the Huguenots of France and the Covenanters of Scotland were hunted by dragoons, and butchered by the thousand, because they would not renounce conscience and the Bible, and swear allegiance to a corrupt governmental church. Indeed, is not the idolatry of a part of India protected at the present moment, according to solemn treaty, by the military power of even Great Britain ? The lessons of history are not to be disregarded. And they teach us the watchful jealousy of human governments -how suspiciously they look upon every species of influence over the people which they cannot themselves mould and wield for the accomplishment of their own purposes. Your missionaries and mission operations have not yet, indeed, felt much the hindrance of this governmental jealousy; but their security has been owing simply to their weakness. The government has them in its power. It can crush them all in a single month. Let it become necessary for carrying out the policy of the British government that your missions in India should cease, and that government will not be likely to hesitate ; it will crush your missions as unscrupulously as it forced opium upon China at the cannon's mouth! Let the time come when your missionaries shall have gathered round them an enlightened and christianized population, -a population extending their ideas from truth in religion to truth about the rights of man—and then, if your missionaries, or the people they have evangelized, shall dare to breathe any of the sighs of republicanism it will be a signal for their ruin! England will not peaceably suffer the spirit of freedom to wrench the empire of India out of her hands. Let the time come (if it ever can, and who shall say it may not), when it shall be the policy of the British Empire to ally to itself more closely its own favored church (of which its sovereign is the “head"), and to favor the High Church pretensions, which are already become so scornful and arrogant, and then your missionaries will not be suffered to teach unmolested the religion of Christ, as men born under the eagle of liberty are accustomed to teach it. We know not what shall come.
But we do know, in the light of centuries of history, that a church leagued with the government becomes a corrupt church; and that human governments, like those of Austria, Italy, Spain, France, have not been accustomed to treat with fair toleration any religion which they could not wield to suit themselves. We do not expect them to do so. We never shall expect it until they shall sever the last link of that unholy chain which binds the state and the church together. The intelligence and piety of Great Britain are now so extensive, and the dissenting interests are so powerful, that there is little to fear perhaps. for the church at home; but these influences give us little security in reference to what the government shall do beyond the Cape—or in any place as far off as India. We say this with an eye upon centuries of her history. But if the British empire is an honorable ex. ception, it is the only one. Beyond it there is not a place the sun shines upon where you have any security for the churches you plant beyond the boundaries of your own country. Here ONLY is the church safe from the unhallowed touch of the government.